The courting of Plaxico Burress to return to the NFL went a little backwards compared to the normal pattern. After Burress sat down with the Giants, Steelers and 49ers and heard sales pitches from the Eagles and Rams, he said he made his decision to become a New York Jet this morning in the Los Angeles airport.
And that's because in a way he had a kind of recruiting talk with Jets owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum two years ago, before he knew he would be spending time in prison for his firearms violation.
"It was back in 2009, I believe, during the spring," Burress, the 10th-year wide receiver and Super Bowl star, told Jets reporters on a conference call this evening. "I was able to sit down and talk to them, and it really meant a lot to me and my family. Not really knowing my fate or what was going to transpire, just for them to be there at that time really said a lot about them. I was really humbled by it.
"To get the call to be able to come here and play for them, for somebody that really supported me through thick and not just thin, means a lot to me. I hope I can come here and play great and help them win the championship."
All Burress had to hear was that the Jets wanted him now, at the start of the 2011 training camp. Once that registered, he knew many of the parts to a title run, similar to the one he was a key player in for the Giants in 2007, were here at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
"I just look at all the pieces to the puzzle that are already in place," "Plax" said from his new "home office" after arriving from his cross-country flight earlier this afternoon to sign his new deal. "Putting myself into this equation, being able to play besides Santonio Holmes, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, I just feel it's a great new opportunity for me. I just want to come here and help these guys win."
The biggest transition for Burress will be getting on the same page with Sanchez and Holmes, who just re-signed this week to stay with the Jets. Yet while Plax and Tone never played together on the Steelers, they seem to be made for each other to thrive as Jets.
"It's going to be special, man," Burress said. "We're both excited because we know we can both go out and dominate games, make big plays, different things like that. I don't think I've had the opportunity to pay with a guy that explosive on the other side of me. I think we're going to complement each other very well, I think our running game is going to blossom because of that, and along the way I think Mark Sanchez has a chance to grow to be an elite quarterback."
But what about playing second fiddle to Holmes, who got reported big bucks so that he could expand his role as Sanchez's and the Jets' No. 1 receiver and playmaker? Burress, who actually played off well with Hines Ward during his best years as a Steeler, had no worries about the transition to possibly being a "No. 2" receiver here.
"It doesn't matter to me at all," he said, "because I get to play alongside with him, we've both had success in this league, played in big games. I'm just ready to come in and fulfill me role, whatever it is, whatever they ask me to do, and I'm just going to take it from there."
Burress sounded all the right notes on the conference call, especially questions about his prison time — "It was definitely something I wish I could change. It's over now. I put it behind me. It's no longer a part of my future — and, for the fans, if he's worried about where he's at physically, not just for this season but in his career.
"I feel I'm in great shape. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised at my conditioning," he said. "There were a lot of different things I'd been doing in South Florida to get back to where I want to be, get back to playing at a high level real soon. I expect a little rust to be there, but all those things will come together with hard work and the different things we have going on over here."
As for the doubt some will have that he can continue on the pace of his first nine years in the NFL when he caught 505 regular-season passes for 7,845 yards and 55 TDs, Plax had a simple reply.
"Everybody will get a chance to see real soon," he said. "Then everybody can make their own assessment."
More Enter the Green Fold
Besides the Burress signing, which the team first announced as an agreement in principle this morning just before 9:30, Tannenbaum and the Jets announced three more signings tonight.
The "biggest" in several ways was the signing of their final draft choice, third-round NT Kenrick Ellis (6'4", 346). QB Mark Brunell, who was released earlier this week, has been re-signed to continue working toward his 19th NFL season and his second as Sanchez's backup.
And the Jets added Chris Bryan to compete with T.J. Conley for the open punting job after Steve Weatherford did a "reverse Plax" and signed with the Giants. Bryan, from Melbourne, Australia, signed with the Packers on March 16 of last year and played four games for the Buccaneers last year, averaging 37.4 yards on 23 punts.